Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall

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Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/19/1307/2015/
doi:10.5194/hess-19-1307-2015
© Author(s) 2015. CC Attribution 3.0 License.
Documentary evidence of historical floods and
extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
D. Retsö
Department of Economic History, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
Correspondence to: D. Retsö ([email protected])
Received: 25 June 2014 – Published in Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.: 5 September 2014
Revised: 30 January 2015 – Accepted: 4 February 2015 – Published: 9 March 2015
Abstract. This article explores documentary evidence of
floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden in the preinstrumental period (1400–1800). The survey shows that two
sub-periods can be considered as flood-rich, 1590–1670 and
the early 18th century. The result related to a low degree of
human impact on hydrology during the period, suggests that
climatic factors, such as lower temperatures and increased
precipitation connected to the so-called Little Ice Age rather
than large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns, should be
considered as the main driver behind flood frequency and
magnitude.
1
Introduction
The purpose of this article is to give an overview of major historical flood events in Sweden in the pre-instrumental period
(1400–1800) based on documentary sources. A few data concern Finland. Focus will be on river floods driven by rainfall
(summer and autumn) and snowmelt (spring). First, a general presentation of the basic orographical and hydrological
features of Sweden will be given, followed by a presentation and critical evaluation of available sources in terms of
reliability and validity. An indexation on magnitude will be
given and an attempt to identify flood-rich and flood-poor
sub-periods will be made. A catalogue of floods and extreme
rainfall events 1400–1800 is found in Table A1, and a catalogue of possible flood-related harvest failures 1200–1600 is
found in Table B1. The study intends to align with prevalent
recommendations in methodology and observation periods in
order to enhance the possibilities of synoptic reconstruction,
calibration and general conclusions on flood regimes in Europe in the pre-instrumental period.
2
Basic orographical and hydrological characteristics
The Scandinavian mountain range (with a maximum altitude
of 2469 m above sea level) runs in a north–south direction on
the western side of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The continental divide largely coincides with the border between Sweden and Norway. Most rivers in Sweden flow down on the
eastern slopes of the mountain range in a southeasterly direction through the largely flat lands into the Bothnian Sea
and the Gulf of Bothnia. In south-central Sweden a number
of large lakes are found – Vänern, Vättern, Mälaren and Hjälmaren – which catch waters to constitute the main basins of
large catchment areas (see Fig. 1). In the southernmost part of
the country the modestly elevated Småland highlands, with a
maximum altitude of 377 m, is the source of a number of
smaller rivers that run both into the Baltic Sea to the east and
the south and into the Kattegatt–Skagerrak of the North Sea
in the west.
The most important catchment areas are Dalälven,
Norrström, Göta älv and Motala ström (see Fig. 1). Dalälven
is Sweden’s longest river with a total extension of 520 km.
The total catchment area is 28 954 km2 . Lake Mälaren constitutes a basin collecting water from a wide range of smaller
rivers, totalling a catchment area of 22 650 km2 , all flowing into the Baltic Sea at Stockholm. The main outlet is
Norrström, north of the Old Town of Stockholm, which has
given the name of the entire catchment area. Sweden’s largest
lake, Vänern, catches waters running down from the higher
altitudes in the province of Värmland as well as in Norway
and lets its waters continue to the North Sea by the Göta älv
River. At its mouth, the second largest city of modern Sweden, Gothenburg, is located, though only founded as late as
1628. The total area of the catchment is 50 229 km2 . The Motala ström catchment area with 15 481 km2 , is constituted by
Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union.
1308
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
Figure 1. Catchment areas and major lakes in Sweden mentioned
in the text.
the waters running from Lake Vättern to the Baltic Sea at
Norrköping.
The geographical distribution of hydrological data in documentary sources mirrors the economic geography of medieval and early modern Sweden. Population density was
highest in southern Sweden where consequently agriculture,
the most important economic activity and especially sensitive to variations in hydrological patterns, was concentrated.
Mining, the second most important economic activity, was
concentrated in the less populated areas of Bergslagen in
the provinces of Västmanland and Dalarna in the areas north
and west of Lake Mälaren. Already in the Bronze Age rich
mineral resources were found here, giving rise to an early
mining activity which used the streaming rivers as a source
of power for the roasting and smelting of the raw ore. The
mining area predictably became an important zone for the
Swedish economy. The rivers are often subject to intense
spring floods when the snow in the mountains to the northwest melts rapidly. The seasonality of floods in the mining
area is therefore concentrated to the spring season and is
explained by a combination of snow storage in the mountains and the rate of melting in the spring. Lake Mälaren was
originally a bay of the Baltic Sea but was separated from it
and transformed into a lake by the continuous postglacial rebound around 1000 BC. The outlet was for long confined to
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
Södertälje and the two narrow canals Norrström and Söderström in Stockholm, founded around AD 1250 and later to
become the capital of Sweden. The combination of these
three factors – the importance of mining to the Swedish economy, the location of the mines near rivers subjected to spring
floods and the location of Sweden’s most prominent early
city – produce a number of hydrological data in contemporary historical sources.
Although many catchment areas in Sweden are quite large
(15–50 000 km2 ), most rivers in south-central Sweden are,
with a few exceptions, not suitable for navigation due to their
small size and the presence of rapids. It led authorities at
an early point to explore the possibilities of building canals
and locks, but such projects were never carried out on any
significant scale before the 19th century (Meyersson, 1943;
Bring, 1911). Also dredging projects were few and limited
before the 19th century. The only systematic dredging of
Swedish rivers seems to have been a consequence of increased log driving, predominantly in the northern provinces
and in the first half of the 18th century (Ahlbäck and Albertsson, 2006; Wik, 1950). Serious alterations of runoff through
engineered modifications only occurred in the second half of
the 20th century with the development of hydropower plants
in the north. The hydrological events prior to the 19th century are therefore to a large extent the result of natural factors. The hydrologically most vulnerable point was the city of
Stockholm. It is located at the outlet of Lake Mälaren, where
a floodgate was constructed already before the 16th century
to control the spring-flood water and where most works of
this kind were carried out (see e.g. Almquist, 1903, 241 pp.;
Handl. rör. Skand. hist. 19, 1834, 183 pp.; Almquist, 1913,
p. 82). In the early 15th century some dredging works were
carried out at the outlet of Södertälje and again in the late
17th century but had little impact on the hydrology of the
lake (Bring, 1924).
Consequently, the human impact on river streambeds and
floodplains has been limited during the period in concern
here. The pressure of urbanization, population increase, deforestation, and other land use changes as well as surface alterations and irregularities in channel alignment can be considered to be negligible due to the sparse population of Sweden and the low-intensity utilization of rivers. Hypothetically, climate, i. e. precipitation and temperature, would be
the main driver behind any observable flood regime change
before 1800 (Glaser et al., 2010; Wetter et al., 2011). Exceptionally, other natural factors than climate explain floods. For
example, according to locals changes in the water levels of
Lake Vänern were due to winds over the large lake surface
rather than floods in the tributary rivers or drought (Elvius,
1751–1752, p. 39).
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D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
3
The documentary sources
The present study has been mainly based on printed letters,
diaries, travel notes, annals and chronicles, as well as secondary sources such as regional topographical descriptions.
Some data have been found in the Swedish National Archives
(Riksarkivet) in Stockholm. There are also some compilations of general weather data from the 18th century (Ferner,
1756; Falkengren, 1781; Ekman, 1783). Further data could
still be found e.g. for the 18th century in newspapers but it
is argued here that the main trends would not change substantially. The survey covers the period up to 1800, approximately a century before the beginning of systematic instrumental hydrographic measurements (Lindström and Alexandersson, 2004). The period has been chosen in order to avoid
complications in the analysis due to the increased interference of anthropogenic factors in the 19th century.
As for most of Europe, the amount of documentary sources
in Sweden is meagre for the Middle Ages but increases dramatically from ca. 1520 due to successful centralization efforts of the central authorities by King Gustavus Vasa (1523–
1560) as well as fortunate preservation circumstances (Retsö
and Söderberg, 2015a). Thus, for the 12th and 13th centuries,
most climatological and parameteorological proxy data are
found in chronicles and annals, written long after the events
were described and most often of Danish or north German
origin. This type of source material is notoriously difficult to
use for historical reconstruction, but with specified methodology it is not useless especially concerning spectacular and
severe events like floods (Wetter et al., 2011; Retsö and
Söderberg, 2015b). Geographical specificity is not very great
– in earlier sources it is confined to general terms (Sweden,
Norway, Denmark). The earliest mentioning of a hydrological extreme found in Scandinavian sources possibly relevant for Sweden is from a Danish annal written sometime
after 1288, which states that the year 1195 was characterized by “extreme wetness” (yuerwætis vædher) (Jørgensen,
1930, p. 179). The only primary sources of a uniform kind
from the Swedish Middle Ages are the diaries of the Birgittine monastery in Vadstena and the Franciscan order of Visby
(Gejrot, 1996; Odelman and Melefors, 2008), but they contain very little of hydrological data.
The quantitative increase of documentary sources in general after 1520 also implies greater reliability since the number of independent data also increases and the basic requirements for documentary sources such as nearness in time and
space and neutrality are better complied with, as well as
the specific requirements on data for the study of long-term
structures and parameteorological phenomena such as floods,
namely, regularity, frequency, uniformity, high time resolution and geographical specificity (Bell and Ogilvie, 1978;
Brázdil et al., 2005, 2010). In addition, the degree of detail as to the causes and impact on society is greater. There
are several uniform individual records produced by the same
person (e.g. Brahe, 1920; Hausen, 1880; Lewenhaupt, 1903),
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whole individual letter suites (e.g. Sjöberg, 1911, 1915; Wijkmark, 1995), and a number of institutional records such as
letters from bailiffs and civil servants throughout the country
(Retsö, 2002; Almquist 1868, 1875, 1877, 1893, 1902, 1903,
1913; Styffe, 1893; Edén, 1905; Ahnlund, 1930).
Hydrological data are limited to statements on extreme
flood events or general characterizations of an entire year.
The approach chosen here is the threshold approach (Hall et
al., 2014), i.e. only floods and rainfall events that have been
perceived by contemporaries to be beyond normality have
been included. Concerning floods, the sources tell us about
two cases: floods due to excessive precipitation and extreme
spring floods. However, it is most often impossible to assess
the magnitude of floods in quantitative terms. Some exceptions are the floods at Uppsala in 1622, at Söderköping in
1684 – for which the only known floodmark has been found
(Broocman, 1760, p. 149) – at Holmen in 1646, at Ekby
1709, and at Stockholm and Uppsala in 1780.
The magnitude is normally described in vague qualitative
terms, e.g. as the worst “in living memory” (mannaminne).
It is argued here that such implicit comparisons with previous floods are indications of perceived absolute magnitude
and not relative to real magnitude. The threshold approach
inevitably involves an element of interpretation based on an
analysis of terminology, the basic understanding of which
may have varied somewhat over time and between persons
but has nevertheless been mainly constant. For example, “severe spring flood” (svår vårflod) must have meant a spring
flood above normal expectations, and the same is the case
with “much wetness” (mycket väta).
The data used have thus been restricted to such data
that can be confirmed to be reliable and valid and above
the threshold of perceived normality. A commonly recommended 3-scale indexation of the magnitude is used here,
based on the criteria of duration, spatial extension and material damage/human casualties (Sturm et al., 2001; Llasat et
al., 2005; Glaser et al., 2010; Wetter et al., 2011): (1) floods
on a regional scale with little material damage and/or short
duration, (2) floods of significant regional or supra-regional
magnitude with considerable material damage and/or average duration, and (3) floods of regional or supra-regional
magnitude with disastrous material damage and/or long duration. Following Hall et al. (2014), the survey intends to identify flood-rich periods in order to facilitate cross-continental
comparisons. Due to lack of reliable data at this stage no attempt will be made to assess discharge. All dates are adjusted
according to the Gregorian calendar (New Style), introduced
in Sweden in 1753.
4
Results
With all these prior observations of the source material, the
result of the survey is as follows. A total of 157 floods or
extreme rainfall events have been found for the period 1400–
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
1310
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
Figure 2. Decadal frequency of floods and extreme rainfall events
in Sweden, 1400–1800, according to documentary sources.
1800, of which 107 can be unambiguously defined as floods
(see Table A1). Catchments particularly hit by floods were
Norrström, Göta älv and Dalälven (see Fig. 1).
There is no clear picture of flood frequency during this
period. Yet, the data are clearly sufficient to make a preliminary identification of flood-rich and flood-poor periods (see
Figs. 2 and 3). There is a clear tendency to more frequent
floods in the 17th and 18th centuries in general. Especially
two periods stand out as particularly flood-rich: 1591–1670
with two intermediate sub-periods with fewer floods in the
1610s and the 1650s, and the early 18th century. On a decadal
timescale the highest number of floods is found in the 1640s
(12 events), the 1700s and the 1720s (11 each), followed by
the 1630s (10) and the 1620s (9). Years of significantly severe
floods were 1649 (6 events), 1622 and 1780 (5 each), and
1596, 1640, 1661, 1677, 1707, 1709 and 1728 (4 each). Particularly serious was the flood in the province of Östergötland
in August 1649 (the so-called Olsmässofloden). According to
one assessment considerably more than 100 mm, perhaps as
much as 200–300 mm of rain may have fallen over certain
locations in the southern and central parts of Östergötland in
a few days (Alexandersson and Vedin, 2001). The flood in
May 1650 seems to have been equally serious; the situation
caused the authorities to initiate works to widen the outlet at
Stockholm and also to investigate the possibilities to widen
the outlet through the Södertälje Canal. The same happened
in the spring of 1661 and the authorities sped up the work at
Södertälje (Bring, 1924, p. 16).
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
Figure 3. Documentary evidence of floods and extreme rainfall
events in Sweden, 1400–1800, with levels of magnitude.
As for magnitude, 32 % of all events were of the third category (floods of regional or supraregional magnitude with disastrous material damage and/or long duration), and 44 % of
the second category (floods of significant regional or supraregional magnitude with considerable material damage and/or
average duration) (Fig. 3). The impression of the period
1591–1670 as one of dramatic hydrology is substantiated by
the fact that almost one-sixth, or 27, of all third category
events occurred during that period.
5
5.1
Discussion
Comparison with flood-rich and flood-poor periods
in continental Europe
The result does not neatly coincide nor with tendencies in
flood frequency or particular events observed in continental
Europe (compare e.g. Wetter et al., 2011; Benito et al., 2003;
Glaser et al., 2010; Glaser and Stangl, 2004; Elleder, 2013;
De Kraker, 2006). For example, both Brázdil et al. (1999)
and Schmocker-Fackel and Naef (2010) found few floods
in northern Switzerland in the first half of the 16th century
but there was a flood frequency peak in 1560–1590, whereas
a first peak in Sweden is found only in the following 2
decades. As for the 17th century, there was a low in Switzerwww.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/19/1307/2015/
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
land until the first decades of the 18th century (Pfister, 1999;
Schmocker-Fackel and Naef, 2010). The latter half of the
century was again a period of high frequency, which only
partially coincides with the documentary data from Sweden.
There are no traces of similarities with Sweden on single extreme years in the same region (Wetter et al., 2011) or in central Europe at a larger scale (Glaser et al., 2010). There are
only slight similarities with the flood chronology of Spain, in
particular for the Llobregat and Tagus catchments in the extended period 1580–1620 (Llasat et al., 2005; Benito et al.,
2003).
5.2
Relation to quantity of source data
The first question to address is whether this can be explained
by a deficiency in the Swedish source material. It is held here
that more documentary sources could doubtlessly improve
the picture in its details but not substantially change the general pattern. For example, the increase in reliable flood data
in the 17th and 18th centuries is not entirely a reflection of a
total increase in documentary sources. Indeed, the total quantity of preserved documentary sources rises considerably already in the 1520s but the rising frequency of floods does not
occur until the 1590s. It can thus be concluded that the data
most probably reflect a real increase in flood events towards
the late 16th century. Consequently, it can also be presumed
that floods really were more rare in the source-poor late Middle Ages. As has been pointed out by Wetter et al. (2011), it
is highly improbable that spectacular events like major floods
would pass unnoticed by chroniclers.
5.3
Comparison with North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
reconstructions
The meteorological/climatological causes behind these
Swedish flood data require further research to be identified. In a number of studies the great variability in flood
frequencies in Europe has been explained by large-scale
atmospheric circulation patterns, particularly on a decadal
timescale (Schmocker-Fackel and Naef, 2010; Casanueva et
al., 2014). In particular, the NAO together with other, related
atmospheric circulation patterns is normally seen as the main
explanation for climatic variability in northern Europe (Lindholm et al., 2009), especially winter precipitation in the NAO
positive phases (Hurrell and Van Loon, 1997; Barker et al.,
2004; Casanueva et al., 2014) as well as for river discharges,
snow accumulation and flooding (Prudhomme and Genevier,
2011).
However, there is no clear connection between the existing
NAO reconstructions and flood frequency in Sweden. In one
reconstruction (Luterbacher et al., 1999) a few winter NAO
indices coincide with flood peaks in Sweden (early 18th century, the 1770s and perhaps also the 1740s), while in others the picture is somewhat different (see e.g. Luterbacher et
al., 2002; Glueck and Stockton, 2001). For example, while
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it would seem that a tendency to a 10–12 years cycle, a
timescale which is close to one of the suggested NAOs (Hurrell and Van Loon, 1997; Cook et al., 1998), could be seen
in the Swedish sources between 1620 and 1661 there is no
sign of it after that. Similarly, one NAO winter index reconstruction (Cook et al., 2002) identifies a positive phase until
about 1640 whereafter it went into a neutral or negative phase
which would not be able to explain the flood peaks in Sweden
in the following decades. If the chronology of Swedish flood
events is compared with the NAO index found in Luterbacher
et al. (2002), then no correlation at all can be seen. According
to expectations, the NAO would have a marked influence on
precipitation and streamflow, particularly in its positive mode
when westerly winds bring moist and warm air over Scandinavia. NAO is also expected to have a stronger effect in the
winter than in the summer, and a stronger effect in northern
Sweden than in the south (Uvo, 2003). However, the documented floods are slightly more frequent in negative NAO
phases (83 events) than in positive NAO phases (64 events).
Furthermore, floods related to the winter season, i.e. spring
floods, are about as many (70) as those related to the summer
season (77). There is no clear tendency in either high altitude
or high latitude catchments (defined as catchments no. 1–5
and 7–8 in Fig. 1): the number of events (106) in the former
catchments is indeed greater than the number of events (34)
in the low latitude/altitude catchments but exhibits a perfectly
equal distribution between positive and negative NAO phases
(53 events each).
Previous attempts have failed to establish an unambiguous
connection between NAO, winter precipitation and floods,
in general, particularly for northern Europe (Bouwer et al.,
2006; Uvo, 2003; Casty et al., 2005). One reason for that
is undoubtedly that NAO operates on a great variety of
timescales and is interfered with by other local conditions
as well as other circulation patterns (Jacobeit et al., 2003;
Lavers et al., 2012). Also changes in flood frequencies are
obviously the result of the workings of several driving forces
at the same time but to different degrees at different times
and places, particularly in colder climates as in Sweden. For
example, it seems that NAO-related precipitation patterns
east of the Scandinavian mountains, i.e. in Sweden, are overplayed by other climatic factors (Uvo, 2003; Linderholm et
al., 2003). However, it is conspicuous that the great majority of the worst flood events have been recorded in catchments that are particularly subjected to spring floods fuelled
by melting snow from high altitudes or latitudes (Norrström,
Göta älv, Dalälven, Torneälven, Piteälven, Ljungan, Indalsälven) and where lake evapotranspiration is lower and water
storage capacity higher (see Fig. 1). Furthermore, if the average winter temperature of Stockholm (Leijonhufvud et al.,
2010) is taken as a proxy for a general meteorological pattern
in southern and central Sweden, the frequency of floods has
a clear correlation with cold and snowy winters. Although
the correlation of winter precipitation with NAO is generally weaker in Sweden than on the Atlantic coast of Norway
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
1312
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
(Uvo, 2003) and although temperature tends to increase under positive NAO, precipitation in the winter at northern latitudes would under all conditions and NAO modes come as
snow and therefore generate a larger storage of water in the
mountains. Thus, the melting of large amounts of snow in the
spring would affect Sweden as well and thereby contribute to
spring floods whose intensity would depend on the evolution
of temperature in the spring.
Plausibly, a decline in evaporation due to decreasing mean
temperatures, probably in connection with heavy winter precipitation in the form of snow and increased spring precipitation due to NAO, generated considerably higher levels of
runoff, notably at higher altitudes (cf. Burt and Howden,
2013) where the wellsprings of most Swedish catchments
are located. The combination of soil saturation, huge snow
amounts and spring rain has been pointed out a an important
trigger for spring floods (Wetter et al., 2011). This allows for
the conclusion that the NAO can account for precipitation
patterns, mainly in the winter, but not necessarily all flood
peaks, whereas climate plays the main role for the frequency
of floods. The peaks in Sweden’s flood history would then
be characterized as cases of “complex extremes” (Benestad
and Haugen, 2007), involving both temperature and precipitation. In some cases, the correlation between snow-rich winters and spring floods is explicit in contemporary sources; for
example, the winters of 1543, 1544, 1601 and 1780 and the
following disastrous spring floods. This correlation between
flood frequencies and the so-called Little Ice Age has also
been noted for other areas of Europe (Brázdil et al., 1999;
Pfister, 1999; Glaser, 2008).
5.4
Medieval floods and harvest failures without stated
causes
There are no unambiguously reliable data on floods in
Swedish medieval sources before the 15th century. In Danish and German chronicles reports are found of heavy raining
and/or floods in 1287, 1315, 1336, 1347, 1357 and 1381 that
could possibly have affected Sweden (Holder-Egger, 1880,
p. 546; Rørdam, 1873, p. 318, 589, 592 pp.; Langebek, 1772,
p. 303; Langebek and Suhm, 1786, p. 532), but the only
indication in Swedish sources is a blunt general statement
about “evil and wet weather” in 1313 in the Erik chronicle, written in the 1330s (Jansson, 2003, p. 148). It should
be noted that there are no indications in Swedish medieval
sources, as in central Europe, for floods in the 1340s or in
1501 (cf. Rokoengen et al., 2001; Brázdil et al., 2005; Rohr,
2007; Kiss, 2009; Elleder et al., 2013). It is also uncertain
whether the statements in Danish chronicles are relevant for
Sweden. The same is the case with the report in Heinrich of
Balsee’s chronicle on a flood in northern Germany in December 1374 (Crull, 1878, 165 pp.).
In many cases the magnitude of floods in the early modern
period is related to the damage on crops (see e.g. Jämtl. räk.,
1564–1571, 38 pp.; Sommarström, 1935, p. 285; Ekström,
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
1949, p. 417; Lindblom, 1793, p. 121; Strömbeck, 1993,
p. 170). Some medieval data tell about severe harvest failures
and famine without stating the causes (see Table B1). At the
present stage no details can be found to support that these
extreme events were caused by floods and undoubtedly some
of them are connected to drought. But it is also clear that several of them may have been caused by floods. Already Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie warned about the difficulty to establish a strict causal connection between climate and crop failures unless the precise cause is stated or the data can be supported by other contemporary data (Le Roy Ladurie, 1971,
275–6 pp.). The purpose of presenting the Swedish data here
is to furnish a point of departure for future research and comparative analyses that can shed more light on the matter.
6
Conclusions
Two periods stand out as particularly flood-rich in the preinstrumental period in Sweden according to documentary
records: 1591–1670 and the early 18th century. In particular, there are clusters of floods in the 1640s, the 1700s and
the 1720s. One-third of all events were floods of regional
or supra-regional magnitude with disastrous material damage and/or long duration, and half of them occurred in the
period 1591–1670.
The spatial scale of spring floods and their temporal concentration in clusters suggest causality on a large timescale,
i.e. meteorological conditions connected with the Little Ice
Age rather than atmospheric circulation patterns such as the
North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and a reflection of regional
response to climatic variability. NAO could very well explain
winter precipitation patterns as well as the flood peaks between 1591 and 1650 but only in combination with a Little Ice Age cooling, which in turn is the more plausible explanation for the peaks in the early 18th century. Given the
high degree of continuity in demographic and economic conditions in the 1400–1800 period, it therefore seems reasonable to conclude that among the potential drivers of flood
regime change are the changes in precipitation and temperature, i.e. climatic change, that mainly account for the longterm variability of historical floods in this period. Although
there is a natural time lag in relation to temperature, there is
a clear correlation between the seasonality and the chronology of spring floods, on the one hand, and, on the other, rapid
and late melting of larger snow storages in combination with
spring precipitation from ca. 1600. This is further confirmed
by the observable spatial coherence of major flood events.
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D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
1313
Appendix A
Table A1. Documentary evidence of floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800 (bf – before).
Year
Date
Location
River
Catchment
Type
Source
Comment
1400
after 26 July
Söderköping
Storån
Storån
2
rainfall
Fant (1818) p. 95,
Paulsson (1974) p. 289,
398 pp.
great flood caused by sudden, violent raining;
people fled the town in fear of a Deluge; kneehigh water inundated cemeteries and streets;
bridges and mills destroyed
1405
7 August
(Denmark, Sweden)
–
–
3
rainfall
Rørdam (1873) p. 555
continuous raining from early August to
Christmas
1421
summer
Vadstena
Lake Vättern
Motala ström
2
rainfall
Gejrot (1996) p. 174f
“so great quantities of rain that corn rotted . . .
followed by plague”
1495
7 November
Stockholm
(Norrström)
Norrström
2
rainfall, sea flood
Fant (1818) p. 68
great storm and sea flood destroyed several ships
in the harbour
1506
April
Arboga
Arbogaån
Norrström
1
snowmelt
Sjödin (1937) p. 205
unusually great spring flood, “a thousand men
could not go against it”
1513
July
(Sweden)
–
–
2
rainfall
Retsö (2002) p. 148
the greatest rainfall in 6–8 years
1523
January
Markaryd
1
snowmelt
Larsson (2002) p. 69f
great inundations hindered warfare
1526
autumn
Västergötland
Province
1
rainfall
Almquist (1868) 74 pp.
much rain and wetness
1530
summer
Uppsala bishopric
NA
Norrström
2
rainfall
Almquist (1877) p. 207
very wet summer and autumn, crops endangered
1533
5 August
Sala
NA
Norrström
1
rainfall
Riksarkivet,
Kammararkivet,
Bergsbruk, Sala gruva
1533–1537
great torrential rain, miners refused to enter the
mines due to the excessive water
1534
8 September
Sala
NA
Norrström
1
rainfall
Riksarkivet,
Kammararkivet,
Bergsbruk, Sala gruva
1533–1537
great torrential rain, miners refused to enter the
mines due to the excessive water
1543
summer
(Sweden)
–
–
2
rainfall
Ekman (1783) p. 143
very wet and cold summer
1544
summer
(Sweden)
–
–
2
rainfall
Forssell (1884) Appendix A
p. 157
very wet and cold summer
1549
23 April
Uppsala
Fyrisån
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Almquist (1902) 13/4 1549
spring flood flushed away a mill dam
1550
bf 21 May
Lake Mälaren
–
Norrström
3
snowmelt
Almquist (1903) 241 pp.,
Handl. rör. Skand. hist.
19 pp., 183 pp.
great spring flood causing “mighty great damages
on fields and meadows”
1557
bf 15 May
Lake Mälaren
–
Norrström
3
snowmelt
Almquist (1913) p. 82
great spring flood and rapidly rising water levels
due to large quantities of ice and snow melting
causing great damages on meadows, dams,
bridges and mills
1559
July
(Västmanland
Province)
–
Norrström
2
rainfall
Dalin (1760–1761) p. 485
great rainfall; all hay flushed away
1560
9 July
Arboga
Arbogaån
Norrström
1
torrential
rain
Ekström (1949) p. 265
sudden torrential rain causing such a darkness that
the priest needed a light in the middle of the day
and people thought Doomsday was at hand
1571
summer
Ragunda
Indalsälven
Indalsälven
2
rainfall
Jämtl. räk. (1564–1571)
38 pp.
small harvest due to great wetness
1573
summer
Linköping
Motala ström
3
rainfall
Granlund (1876) p. 45
the cathedral at Linköping damaged by rain
1580
summer
(south Västergötland
Province)
Viskan,
Ätran
Viskan, Ätran
2
rainfall
Österberg (1971) p. 219
“terrible wetness”, peasants unable to pay taxes
1581
spring
Gliehammaren
–
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Noraskogs arkiv
(1889–1891) p. 173
water wheel damaged beyond repair
1589
autumn
Skerike
Svartån
Norrström
3
rainfall
Ekström (1949) p. 78
great wetness destroyed the crops
1589
summer
Romfartuna
Lillån
Norrström
2
rainfall
Ekström (1949) p. 663
damages on crops due to wetness
1595
bf 7 July
Finland
–
–
2
rainfall
Sommarström (1935) p. 285
bad harvest and rotten hay due to excessive rains
1595
summer
(Sweden)
–
–
2
rainfall
Brahe (1920), p. 15
unprecedented extreme rains
1596
10 August
Örslösa
Söneån
Göta älv
3
rainfall
Silvén-Garnert and
Söderlind (1980) p. 158f
great deluge-like rainfall, flushing away bridges,
water covering fields and meadows destroying
crops and killing goats and sheep
1596
ca. 25 June–ca. 25 July
(northern
Södermanland
Province)
–
Norrström
2
rainfall
Lewenhaupt (1903) p. 109
raining almost every day for 1 month
1596
summer
Orsa
Oreälven
Dalälven
3
rainfall
Ekström (1949) p. 417
“severe wetness destroyed the harvest”
–
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Göta älv
Index
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
1314
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
Table A1. Continued.
Year
Date
Location
River
Catchment
Type
Source
Comment
1596
July
Lönneberga, Ålem
Silverån,
Alsterån
Emån,
Alsterån
3
rainfall
Hallendorff (1902) p. 77,
Edman (1985) p. 72
flood caused by heavy rainfall; all meadows
covered by water so that they looked like lakes;
bad damages on hay and corn crops, and animals
died of food shortage, hay flushed away from
meadows and the crop failure created hunger
among peasants
1597
22 May
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
3
torrential rain
Edman (1985) p. 72
torrential rain brought by northerly winds; all
crops flushed away and the fields looked like
lakes
1597
27 June
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
3
torrential rain
Edman (1985) p. 72
torrential rain for 24 hours; corn plants drowned
in water and crops flushed away
1600
summer
(Östergötland
Province)
–
–
2
rainfall
Wennberg (1947) p. 197 no. 3
crops partly destroyed by wetness
1600
20 September–
10 October
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
3
rainfall
Lindblom (1793) p. 121
continuous raining for 3 weeks from
20 September, harvests ruined
1601
April
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
3
snowmelt
Edman (1985) p. 75,
Collmar (1960) p. 85,
Utterström (1955) p. 29
great spring flood caused by sudden warmth
following a severe winter with much snow; all
bridges and most mills destroyed, next year’s
seeds destroyed
1602
summer
Fresta, Hammarby
–
Norrström
2
rainfall
Strömbeck (1993) p. 170
excessive rains destroyed most of the harvest
1602
summer,
autumn
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
2
rainfall
Edman (1985) p. 76,
Collmar (1960) p. 85,
Palme (1942) p. 391
“mighty severe autumn wetness” damaged hay
crops and other crops
1603
bf 25 February
Kumogård, Birkkala
(Finland)
Kumo älv
Kumo älv
1
snowmelt
Waaranen (1864) 9, 12 pp.
“superfluous water”, “waterflow and unnatural
wetness”
1604
spring
Nykroppa
Kroppaälven
Göta älv
2
snowmelt
Furuskog (1924) p. 80
water dams busted by spring flood, requiring
354 days of work to repair
1606
spring
Lillfors
Storfors-älven
Göta älv
2
snowmelt
Furuskog (1924) p. 83
water dam busted by spring flood; it took 4
weeks to repair it
1607
autumn
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
2
rainfall
Edman (1985) p. 84
“extreme autumn wetness”
1608
May
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
2
rainfall
Edman (1985) p. 84
“two mighty great waterfloods in May and in
August” with much damages on hay and corn
crops
1608
August
Ålem
Alsterån
Alsterån
2
rainfall
Edman (1985) p. 84
“two mighty great waterfloods in May and in
August” with damages on hay and corn
1610
16–18 March
Visby, Gotland
–
–
2
rainfall
Strelow (1633) p. 298
“severe flood”, water high in the streets
1610
spring
(Sweden)
–
–
1
snowmelt
Ekman (1783) p. 149
great waterflood
1613
spring
(Dalarna Province)
–
Dalälven
1
snowmelt
Sillén (1865) p. 84
“strong waterflow”
1614
autumn
Växjö
–
Mörrumsån
2
rainfall
Ahnlund (1930) p. 363
harvest “badly damaged” by rain
1617
spring
Kuivakangas
Torne älv
Torne älv
3
snowmelt
Olofsson and Stille
(1965) p. 213
The Särkilax chapel floated away with the
spring flood
1618
spring
Uppsala
Fyrisån
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Falkengren (1781)
“much damage” by spring flood
1622
spring
Löfsta, Uppsala
Fyrisån
Norrström
3
snowmelt
Swederus (1911) p. 238,
Falkengren (1781)
dams damaged at the Löfsta mill and in Uppsala
town, ice blocks thrown up on the main square
1622
spring
Norrköping
Norrköpings
ström
Motala ström
3
snowmelt
Helmfrid (1959) p. 21
all water dams swept away by the spring flood
1622
spring
Piteå
Pite älv
Pite älv
3
snowmelt
Olofsson and Stille
(1965) p. 273
dams at Piteå sawmill damaged
1622
1 August
Stockholm
–
Norrström
2
rainfall
Ahnlund (1920) p. 40f
much rain, breaking down the corn
1622
bf 28 October
Gothenburg
Göta älv
Göta älv
2
rainfall
Cronholm (1864) p. 67
the harbour damaged by much rain
1623
ca. 30 June
eastern Värmland
–
Göta älv
2
rainfall
Hausen (1880) p. 270
a statement on a severe spring flood in 1663 says
that an equally destructive flood took place
40 years earlier
1625
bf 5 April–
10 May
Säter
Dalälven
Dalälven
3
snowmelt
Edén (1905) 206 pp.,
Wittrock (1919) p. 57,
Wolontis (1936) p. 63,
Falkengren (1781)
spring flood unusually violent, destroying the mint
at Säter on 10 May, nine people went missing
1626
bf 28 April
Nyköping
Nyköpings-ån
Nyköpingsån
1
snowmelt
Wittrock (1919) p. 74f
the copper minting hindered by spring flood
1628
summer
(Sweden)
–
–
3
rainfall
Ekman (1783) p. 136,
Falkengren (1781)
very rainy summer, flooded fields and meadows,
damaged harvests
1632
bf 28 October
Stockholm
(Norrström)
Norrström
1
rainfall
Styffe (1893) p. 504
“continuous wetness”
1632
summer
Öland
–
–
1
rainfall
Ilmoni (1849) p. 185,
Sillén (1865) p. 84,
Ahlqvist (1825) p. 295
continuous raining
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
Index
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D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
1315
Table A1. Continued.
Year
Date
Location
River
Catchment
Type
Source
Comment
1632
July
northern Sweden
–
–
1
rainfall
Olofsson and Stille
(1965) p. 311
cold and wet
1633
summer
Öland
–
–
2
rainfall
Sillén (1865) p. 84
continuous raining, famine and dear times
1633
summer
(Sweden)
–
–
3
rainfall
Ekman (1783) p. 136
rainy summer with poor harvests in the south and
harvest failures in the north
1638
spring
Västerbotten
–
–
3
snowmelt,
rainfall
Göthe (1929) p. 67,
Falkengren (1781),
Riksregistraturet 19/3 1639
spring flood and raining destroyed fields and
meadows
1640
spring
Sala
Sagån
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Edén (1905) p. 267
great spring flood stopped silver mining for 1
month
1640
spring
–
Lake Mälaren
Norrström
1
snowmelt
Bring (1924) p. 16
unusually high water levels on lakes
1640
bf 28 May
Kopparberget
Faluån
Dalälven
2
snowmelt
Edén (1905) p. 269 f
water dams have barely been saved from the
spring flood which is expected to last another
14 days
1640
28 June
Karlstad
Klarälven
Göta älv
3
snowmelt
Hausen (1880) p. 53
mighty high water levels on the lakes; boats could
be rowed across the fields
1641
summer,
autumn
northern Sweden,
northern Finland
–
–
2
rainfall
Wittrock (1948) p. 311,
Lundkvist (1986)
“rain almost every day” during the summer,
damaging the harvests seriously
1646
10–18 December
Holmens bruk
Motala ström
Motala ström
2
rainfall
Helmfrid (1959) p. 67
the water in Motala ström began to rise rapidly
around 10 December, to a level only 30 cm
below the furnaces on 18 December
1647
19 July
Väsby
–
Norrström
2
rainfall
Edén (1905) p. 245
mines filled with water after great and continuous
rainfall, causing a stop for mining for 14 days
1648
–
(Sweden)
–
–
1
rainfall
Hausen (1880) p. 135
very wet year
1649
spring
Baggetorp
–
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Edén (1905) p. 183
mill dam destroyed by spring flood
1649
spring
Stockholm
(Norrström),
Lake
Mälaren
Norrström
3
rainfall
Tigerstedt (1888) p. 45,
Bring (1924) p. 16
“much wetness and continuous raining” caused
harvest failure and poverty among peasants; Lake
Mälaren high above its banks
1649
summer, autumn
(Västergötland,
Öland)
–
–
3
rainfall
Hausen (1880) p. 143
“so much water that the ears of the corn could not
be seen”
1649
7 August
and
following
(Östergötland)
–
Motala ström
3
rainfall
Ilmoni (1849) p. 196,
Rydberg (1997),
Alexandersson and
Vedin (2001)
the “Olsmässa flood”: severe floods all over the
province, mills, dams, houses, fences, crops and
trees flushed away, cattle and people died,
destroyed harvests for 3 years afterwards
1649
autumn
(Dalarna Province)
–
Dalälven
3
rainfall
Ilmoni (1849) p. 196
inundations all over the province
1649
bf 16 October
Stockholm
(Norrström)
Norrström
2
rainfall
Sjöberg (1911) p. 16
“horrible weather . . . it has rained and is still
raining tremendously . . . this city [of Stockholm]
must be the potty of the sky”
1650
bf 19 May
–
Lake
Mälaren
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Handl. rör. Skand. hist.,
Vol. 9, p. 394,
Lilienberg (1891) p. 35
rapidly rising water levels in the lake, damaging
the surroundings
1650
autumn
–
Lake Mälaren
Norrström
1
rainfall
Bååth (1916) p. 234
rising water levels
1656
bf 21 May
Avesta
Dalälven
Dalälven
3
snowmelt
Norberg (1956) p. 32 no. 33
“a tremendous spring flood with so much water
that some who live near the river have seen their
beds floating inside their houses”
1658
bf 24 November
Småland Province
–
–
3
snowmelt
Holm (1906) p. 346
much snow in November melted and became a
flood so great that bridges were destroyed and the
water “stood above the back of the horse”
1659
summer
Stola
Lake Vänern
Göta älv
2
rainfall
Sjöberg (1911) 146, 149 pp.
“great wetness”
1660
spring
Skedvi, Säter, (Stora)
Tuna
Dalälven
Dalälven
3
snowmelt
Riksarkivet,
Bergskollegium,
huvudarkivet,
Bergverksrelationer EII:a
vol. 2 fol 172, 175, 177
three mines and all water wheels severely
damaged by violent spring flood
1661
spring
Skedvi, Säter, (Stora)
Tuna
Dalälven
Dalälven
3
snowmelt
Riksarkivet,
Bergskollegium,
huvudarkivet,
Bergverksrelationer EII:a
vol. 2 fol 175
all water wheels severely damaged by violent
spring flood
1661
early spring
Stockholm
Norrström,
Söderström
Norrström
3
snowmelt
Bring (1924) p. 16
extremely high water due to large quantities of
snow and ice melting, covering the Munkbro
bridge and entering houses; other bridges and the
new lock threatened by the water
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Index
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
1316
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
Table A1. Continued.
Year
Date
Location
River
Catchment
Index
Type
Source
Comment
1661
spring
Västland and Tolfta
parishes
Tämnarån
Tämnarån
3
snowmelt
Landshövdingars
skrivelse t K M:t,
Uppsala län (RA)
great damage from spring flood that covered fields
for a long time
1661
bf 17 August
Stockholm
(Norrström)
Norrström
2
rainfall
Sjöberg (1915) p. 270
“tremendously great wetness”
1662
autumn
Södermanland
Province
–
Nyköpingsån
1
rainfall
Tilander (1968) p. 109
wet and flooded roads
1663
bf 10 April
Stockholm
(Norrström)
Norrström
1
snowmelt
Sjöberg (1915) p. 369
great spring flood
1663
July, esp.
20–21
eastern Värmland
Göta älv
3
rainfall
Hausen (1880) p. 270
terribly much rain on certain locations; heavy
rainfall on 20–21 July “as if the sky had opened”,
followed by flood which destroyed bridges, dams,
sawmills etc., the meadows were like lakes, the
hay floated away and the water covered the crops,
many pigs drowned
1664
14–16 September
Värmland Province
Göta älv
2
rainfall
Hausen (1880) 302, 303 pp.
heavy daily rain and storm with flood and rising
river levels
1677
spring
Falun
Faluån
Dalälven
1
snowmelt
Hildebrand (1946) p. 331
material damages
1677
spring
Stöpsjöhyttan
Stöpsjön
Göta älv
2
snowmelt
Danielson (1974) 19 pp.
severe spring flood, damages at the furnace
facilities
1677
spring
Njurunda
Ljungan
Ljungan
3
snowmelt
Hülphers (1780) p. 30
great flood, causing much damage
1677
5 June
–
Torne älv
Torne älv
3
snowmelt
Hellant (1747), Keksi
(1936–1945), Olofsson
and Liedgren (1974)
p. 93, Fahlgren (1956)
p. 48
great flood, causing much damage on buildings
and killing cattle
1680
spring
Hännickehammaren
Stampbäc-ken
Göta älv
2
snowmelt
Furuskog (1924) p. 133
violent spring flood destroyed the furnace
1684
bf 27 April
Vaksala
Lillån
Norrström
2
snowmelt
letter from the peasants
in Vaksala 17 April
1684, RA,
Landshövdingens i
Uppsala län skrivelser till
K. M.:t
bridges destroyed by spring flood
1684
spring
Söderköping
Storån
Storån
3
snowmelt
Broocman (1760) p. 149
severe spring flood; the water rose to 0.5 m above the
benches in the St. Laurentii church and 0.5 m
above the floor, watermark on wall in church
1686
spring
Nordhallen,
(Jämtland)
Indalsälven
Indalsälven
1
snowmelt
Hildebrand (1918) p. 115,
Lundström (1912) p. 249
great spring flood
1686
bf 15 June
Lundby
–
Tyresån
2
rainfall
Wijkmark (1995) p. 436
continuous rain and storms for several days
1691
bf 1 March
Vaxholm
–
Åkersström
2
snowmelt
letter from the governor
of Uppsala Province
19 February 1691, RA,
Landshövdingens i
Uppsala län skrivelser till
K. M.:t
barrier damaged by spring flood
1697
bf 1 May
Nykvarn
Brantshammarsån
Norrström
2
snowmelt
letter from the governor
of Uppsala Province
4 April 1697, RA,
Landshövdingens i
Uppsala län skrivelser till
K. M.:t
damages on ferry and mill
1697
spring
Rytterne
Åbäcken
Norrström
1
snowmelt
Hülphers (1793) p. 319
great spring flood
1703
6–7 July
Ydre
–
Motala ström
2
rainfall
Rääf (1875) p. 350
“great rainfall . . . hardly any spring flood could be
greater than the flood that followed”
1705
27 May
Gotland
–
–
2
rainfall
Kellgren (1931) p. 18 f
“snowing all day followed by much rain and great
waterflood”, not so much damage on crops as on
hay
1707
bf 2 January
Ljustorp, Medelpad
Ljustorpsån
Indalsälven
3
rainfall,
snowmelt
Hülphers (1771) p. 112
enduring rain and great waterflood destroyed
bridges and water dams
1707
summer
Rytterne
Åbäcken
Norrström
2
rainfall
Hülphers (1793) p. 321
“wet summer”, hay and rye crops damaged
1707
summer
–
Lake Vänern
Göta älv
1
rainfall
Wallén (1910) p. 13
much raining
1707
summer,
autumn
Gotland
–
–
2
rainfall
Kellgren (1931) p. 20
violent and enduring rain, wetness continued until
New Year
1709
13 March
Ekby
Tidan
Göta älv
3
snowmelt
Bergstrand (1934) p. 188
severe winter followed by spring flood which
almost reached the parish church (2 km from the
river)
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
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D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
1317
Table A1. Continued.
Year
Date
Location
River
Catchment
1709
spring
Norrköping
Norrköpings
ström, Lake
Roxen
Motala ström
1709
spring
Uppsala
Fyrisån
1709
spring
Gotland
1710
May
1711
Type
Source
Comment
3
snowmelt
Ringborg (1920) p. 92,
Stille (1903) p. 146 f
great spring flood causing poverty among peasants
Norrström
3
snowmelt
Annerstedt (1912) p. 128
water dams completely ruined by great
spring flood
–
–
3
snowmelt
Kellgren (1931) p. 25
great spring flood causing much damage on
sawmills and other mills
Hälsingland Province
–
–
1
snowmelt
Hægermarck and
Grape (1911–1949) p. 340
quite great but not enduring spring flood
12, 13,
16 July
Hälsingland Province
–
–
1
rainfall
Hægermarck and
Grape (1911–1949) p. 348
great flood caused by much rain; hay ruined, mill
channels full, as in spring
1712
21 October–
11 November
Hälsingland Province
–
–
2
rainfall
Hægermarck and
Grape (1911–1949) p. 353
“the month of October all wet . . . continuous
raining, wind and fog so that, contrary to the
usual, creeks and rivers swelled even more than in
the spring . . . caused much damage”
1714
15–16 September
Hälsingland Province
–
–
3
rainfall
Hægermarck and
Grape (1911–1949) p. 360
in two days “fell so terribly much rain that all
creeks, lakes, meadows were covered. No
spring flood could be greater”, great damages;
bridges, millhouses, barns, boats destroyed and
great slides of chunks of earth
1717
early May
Hälsingland Province
–
–
1
snowmelt
Hægermarck and
Grape (1911–1949) p. 366
unusually great spring flood
1720
24–30 October
Hälsingland Province
–
–
1
rainfall
Hægermarck and
Grape (1911–1949) p. 380
much rain on 24 and even more on 27, and again
on 28–30 October; rising sea level
1721
spring
Västerbotten
Province
–
–
2
snowmelt
Lundmark (1990) p. 155
great spring flood ruined fishing of the season
1724
20 April
Örebro
Svartån
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Linder (1916) p. 25
the excessive water submerged poles in the
harbour
1724
spring
Långared
Säveån
Göta älv
2
snowmelt
Bergstrand (1954) p. 24
great spring flood causing inundations
1725
summer
Västergötland
Province
–
Göta älv
2
rainfall
Bergstrand (1934) p. 154
extremely rainy summer
1728
spring
Mora southwards
Dalälven
Dalälven
3
snowmelt
Norberg (1956) p. 325
great spring flood damaged all bridges between
Mora and the provincial border
1728
spring
Järbo
Jädraån
Dalälven
2
snowmelt
Norberg (1958–1959) p. 243
iron furnace destroyed by spring flood
1728
spring
Jämtland Province
–
Indalsälven
1
snowmelt
Hasselberg (1930)
high waters due to spring flood
1728
spring
Njurunda
Ljungan
Ljungan
1
snowmelt
Hülphers (1780) p. 30
great spring flood
1729
spring
Jämtland Province
–
Indalsälven
1
snowmelt
Hasselberg (1930)
high waters due to spring flood
1730
spring
Säter
Dalälven
Dalälven
2
snowmelt
Ericsson (1970) p. 73
the mill severely damaged by spring flood
1730
spring
Holmen
Hällestadsån
Motala ström
2
snowmelt
Helmfrid (1954) p. 109,
Ericsson (1970) p. 73
water dam at Säter damaged by spring flood
1733
August
Hälsingland Province
–
–
3
rainfall
Hægermarck and
Grape (1911–1949) p. 380
continuous rain day and night throughout the
month of August; swamps and meadows filled
with water and streams and creeks greater than in
spring floods so that one could travel over them in
boats; hay and corn destroyed. High sea level
1740
summer
–
Lake Vänern
Göta älv
1
rainfall
Wallén (1910) p. 13
“wet year”
1740
summer
southern and
southeastern Sweden
–
–
1
rainfall
Utterström (1957), Vol. 2
p. 429
“much wetness”
1743
spring
Jämtland Province
–
Indalsälven
1
snowmelt
Hasselberg (1930)
high waters due to spring flood
1743
28 May
Avesta
Dalälven
Dalälven
2
snowmelt
Norberg (1956) p. 683
river bridge broken down by great spring flood
and storm
1743
May
Avesta
Dalälven
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Norberg (1956) Vol. 2
p. 683
river bridge destroyed by spring flood
1745
spring
Uppland
–
Norrström
1
snowmelt
Utterström (1957) p. 430
great spring flood
1745
spring
(Västergötland
Province)
–
Göta älv
1
snowmelt
Utterström (1957) Vol. 2
p. 430, Ny journal
(1776–1813) p. 33
great spring flood
1745
15 July
Stöde
Indalsälven
Indalsälven
1
torrential
rain
Nordenström (1894) p. 43
“great rain on the 14th, as if the sky had opened
with a great rainflood”
1753
13 August
Stöde
Indalsälven
Indalsälven
1
rainfall
Nordenström (1894) p. 44
great flood caused by rain
1754
August
Uppsala
Fyrisån
Norrström
2
rainfall
Ferner (1756) 287 pp.
wet; much hay and corn destroyed by wetness
1755
spring
Stöde
Indalsälven
Indalsälven
1
snowmelt
Nordenström (1894) p. 44
great spring flood
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Index
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
1318
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
Table A1. Continued.
Year
Date
Location
River
Catchment
Index
Type
Source
Comment
1756
11 June
Stöde
Indalsälven
Indalsälven
1759
ca. 15 June
Stöde
Indalsälven
Indalsälven
2
snowmelt
Nordenström (1894) p. 44
great spring flood, water rising above the fields
2
rainfall
Nordenström (1894) p. 45
1763
20 July
Stöde
Indalsälven
rain flood greater than this year’s spring flood
Indalsälven
2
rainfall
Nordenström (1894) p. 45
1777
summer
Västergötland
Province
rain flood destroying hay harvest
–
Göta älv
2
rainfall
Bergstrand (1934) p. 154
continuous rains, few persons could remember
anything similar
1778
31 March
Söderköping
Storån
Storån
3
rainfall
Ny journal (1776–1813) p. 115
great rainfall, flooding the river which covered
seven bridges, waters entered church and streets
1780
March
Västmanland
Province
Lake
Mälaren
Norrström
2
snowmelt
Utterström (1957) p. 435
unprecedented great spring flood following a
severe, snow-rich and long winter
1780
March
Stockholm
(Norrström)
Norrström
3
snowmelt
Ny journal (1776–1813)l p. 231
great spring flood in creeks and streams,
unprecedented water levels of the Lake Mälaren,
rising up to 4 ft. higher than usual
1780
May
Uppsala
Fyrisån
Norrström
3
snowmelt
Ny journal (1776–1813) p. 163
great spring flood following an “unnaturally”
snow-rich winter; the waters rose to the
windows of the houses and into the gardens which
were destroyed
1780
early May
Nordmarks hytta
Nordmarksälven
Göta älv
3
snowmelt
Danielson (1974) p. 38f
the iron furnace at Nordmark destroyed by sudden
and great spring flood
1780
spring
Jämtland Province
–
Indalsälven
1
snowmelt
Hasselberg (1930)
high waters due to spring flood
1782
autumn
Närke Province
–
Norrström
2
rainfall
Ny journal (1776–1813) p. 224
1 entire month of continuous raining
1785
autumn
Uddevalla
Bäveån
Strömsån
3
rainfall
Ny journal (1776–1813) p. 33
extreme autumn rains rose the waters of the river
to the highest in 40 years; four bridges, six
grainmills and other facilities destroyed
1788
March
Norrköping
Norrköpings
ström
Motala ström
1
snowmelt
Ny journal (1776–1813) p. 88
great spring flood with some damage
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
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D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
1319
Appendix B
Table B1. Documentary data on harvest failures related to Sweden, 1200–1600, without specified cause.
Year
Location
Source
Comment
1283
Denmark
Rørdam (1873) p. 587
“a severe dear time”
1291
Sweden
Sylvius (1678) p. 211
“dear times”
1310
Denmark
Strelow (1633) p. 154
“such a dear time that has not hitherto been known”
1314
Sweden
Sylvius (1678) p. 279
“great famine in Sweden”
1319
Denmark
Rørdam (1873) p. 589
“a severe dear time”
1360
Denmark
Langebek (1772) p. 220
great food shortage
1375
Gotland
Strelow (1633) p. 180
“dear times on corn and fish”
1442
Finland
Hausen (1921) no. 2512, 2517,
2521, 2528, 2529, 2535
harvest failure on hops and rye
1445
Vadstena
Riksarkivet A21 fol. 89r.-v.
a letter from May 1447 speaks of food shortage and two consecutive years of
harvest failures
1446
Vadstena
Riksarkivet A21 fol. 89r.-v.
a letter from May 1447 speaks of food shortage and two
consecutive years of harvest failures
1455
Sweden, Östergötland
Gejrot (1996) 286, 292 pp., Styffe
(1870) no. 44, Fant (1818) 173,
175 pp., Cod. dipl. lub. (1893), 9 no. 328,
Ropp (1883) 378, 383 pp.
“famine ravaged in all of Sweden so violently that many died of starvation, and
many of the plague”, “so great was the famine this year [1457] and in the past
two years in Sweden and Östergötland that nobody among the living could
remember such starvation”
1456
Sweden, Östergötland
Gejrot (1996) p. 292 f
“so great was the famine this year [1457] and in the past two years in Sweden and
Östergötland that nobody among the living could remember such starvation”
1457
Sweden, Östergötland
Gejrot (1996) p. 292 f
“so great was the famine this year [1457] and in the past two years in Sweden and
Östergötland that nobody among the living could remember such starvation”
1470
Finland
Hausen (1890) no. 625
“a greatly difficult year” referring to 1470
1542
Finland
Almquist (1893) p. 292 f
“quite small harvest”
1568
Västergötland
Riksarkivet Riksregistraturet (1569)
5/4 1569
“small harvest in Västergötland, the subjects are destitute and impoverished”
1571
Östergötland
Riksarkivet Riksregistraturet (1572)
11/5 1572
“people in Östergötland are in misery and in need of seed and assistance”
1586
Uppland, Västmanland
and other provinces
Riksarkivet Riksregistraturet (1587)
5/4 1587
“bad harvest last year”
1587
Uppland, Kalmar,
Småland, Finland,
northern Sweden
Riksarkivet Riksregistraturet (1588)
15/2 1588, 2/4 1588
“hard and dear times”, “bad harvest last year [1587]”
1588
northern Sweden and
Finland
Hildebrand (1899) p. 811
“small harvest, particularly in northern Sweden and Finland
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Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 19, 1307–1323, 2015
1320
D. Retsö: Documentary evidence of historical floods and extreme rainfall events in Sweden 1400–1800
Acknowledgements. I wish to thank the referees for useful comments.
Edited by: A. Kiss
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